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Student Section Revisited (Hanging Out at the Spring Game)

It’s been awhile since I watched the Buffs from the student section in Folsom Field.

Sure, there have been times late in games over the years when I have been strolling around the stadium, and have watched a few plays here and there from the lower sections of the stadium reserved for CU students.

But an entire game?

Do the words “Ronald Reagan” mean anything to you?

Yet there we were, in Section 116, watching the CU Spring Game … er, Spring Showcase. We were among the chosen few (more on that later) who were allowed in to enjoy a gorgeous morning in Folsom Field, watching the Buffs conclude their set of spring practices under Karl Dorrell. The Buffs went through a series of drills before engaging in 67 plays of a controlled scrimmage.

A few takeaways from CU’s Spring Showcase …

It was nice be “home” again 

The last time I was able to walk through the tunnel into Folsom was for the Washington game in November, 2019. It was a great game, with the Buffs coming away with a 20-14 victory. The Buffs were led by Steven Montez (223 yards passing), Alex Fontenot (105 yards rushing) and Laviska Shenault (100 yards receiving). The win gave Colorado a 5-6 record under first year head coach Mel Tucker, with optimism for the future of the program emanating throughout Folsom Field.

The calendar says it was only about 18 months ago, but it seem like it was even longer. So much has changed since that cool November evening.

Things are not back to normal, but we’re getting there, and it was great to be able to watch my Buffs take the field.

Any separation in the quarterback race? 

No … nor was there expected to be any.

With Sam Noyer recovering from shoulder surgery, this spring was a chance for returning “freshman” Brendon Lewis and Tennessee transfer J.T. Shrout to make a case that they should be considered as the primary challenger to Noyer, a second-team All-Pac-12 performer in 2020.

Was there any resolution of the race to challenge Noyer come fall camp?

“You can see how good ‘B.  Lew’ is playing,”, said head coach Karl Dorrell. “He looks more comfortable in the pocket, he’s making some really good positive plays. You can tell his growth is on the upswing. J.T. Shrout, for a guy that just got here in January, I think he’s in the thick of it as well. He’s caught up learning the system and he was able to piece himself together.”

To the casual observer, Brendon Lewis did appear to have a solid spring scrimmage, and his ability create was not really tested under conditions when the quarterbacks were wearing “don’t touch me” gold jerseys. A favorite of many of the Buff faithful, any news of progress from the coaching staff is seen as a positive sign.

This was, though, the first opportunity for CU fans to watch J.T. Shrout in action … and he didn’t disappoint. The only touchdown pass of the scrimmage came on a broken play. Shrout was pressured, and back pedaled, throwing off of his back foot (a la Steven Montez). From our vantage point in the student section, it appeared that Shrout was throwing the ball away deep into the end zone. Instead, the ball fell into the hands of tight end Alec Pell. Nice play.

Shrout also showed he had a strong arm on sideline throws, and made good decisions.

So … nothing decided?

“It’s going to be a tremendous competition once Sam gets back in the summer,” Dorrell said. “Sam’s going to have to try to hold off two pretty good players that are going to be on his heels. It’s a good situation to have.”

Stay tuned.

Dink and dunk?

Granted, coaches don’t want to show opposing teams what they are working on, and it’s important for teams to get the basics down before installing fancier formations and plays.

We get it.

Still, the lack of any deep pass plays during the spring showcase was noticeable. Almost every pass play was a short out, and underneath pass, or a dump off to a running back.

Part of this, certainly was by design. Part of this may have been due to the patchwork offensive lines with which the Buffs were forced to play Friday.

But it’s no secret that Karl Dorrell is expecting more from his offense this fall, and offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini will be under the gun to produce. With talented depth at running back, wide receiver, and, dare we say, tight end, more explosive plays will be anticipated.

CU will not – cannot – beat many of its teams on the calendar by relying on ten-play, 80-yard drives. While those are always welcome, you can’t depend on having enough of those to beat quality teams.

To be determined.

A nice moment

During the one-on-one drills, senior grad transfer tight end Matt Lynch was pitted against junior safety Chris Appleton.

The pass was incomplete, with Appleton breaking up the pass.

The play went on without much notice from the 1,000 on hand in the stands, with the fans on hands perplexed when the players erupted in cheers.

A glance up to the scoreboard gave us a clue.

Lynch and Appleton had been awarded scholarships.

“Both of those guys were integral pieces for us last year and they’ve made some productive input on both sides of the ball,” Dorrell said. “Curtis was doing some really good things for us on our defensive side. He’s grown at the safety position and he’s one of our core special teams players. “Matt came in and quickly acclimated himself. He was an integral piece to us last year when Brady (Russell) got hurt.

“We want the competition to be fierce at every position,” he said.  I want our walkons to feel like if you do walk on at Colorado, ‘If I work hard and I can get on the depth chart and contribute on special teams, I have a chance to earn a scholarship,'” he said. “That’s what these two guys did. Those guys are well deserved.”

While it was a nice touch to give Lynch and Appleton scholarships, there is also the reality of the numbers.

CU is going to be allowed 88 scholarship athletes on the roster come August 1st, and CU is already a half dozen or so scholarship players over that number.

Which means that two more of  the scholarship players who were on the field for the Spring Scrimmage won’t be on the team this fall.

Plus, Dorrell and staff just added yet another scholarship tight end to the roster. That’s two scholarship tight ends (including Class of 2021 recruit Adam Smith, who committed April 16th) added since Dorrell said a few weeks ago he said that 12 tight ends were too many.

Roster math …

Now, about how CU handled its Spring Showcase

A Friday Spring Showcase?

When every other team in the Pac-12 is playing on Saturday?

And at 9:00 a.m.?

Okay, I understand the official explanation. Finals week was starting on Saturday, and the coaching staff didn’t want their players to have any conflicts with finals. And to have their spring game wrapped up by noon on Friday would give the team time to rest up and prepare for their exams.

Got it … that makes sense.

But the Buffs put themselves in that position.

There was no spring break at the University of Colorado this year, and, as far as we know, there have been no weeks subtracted from the calendar.

Which means that the CU coaching staff knowingly shorted themselves. They could have started spring practices a week earlier, and had a Spring Game last Saturday. Even with other Pac-12 teams having their spring games last weekend, the Pac-12 Networks could have worked around any time issues. Had CU started at noon last Saturday, they would have been done by 2:00 p.m. (1:00 p.m., PT), with plenty of time to cover two or even three more Pac-12 spring games (not that there is anyone watching the Pac-12 Networks, anyway).

And then there were the tickets.

The tickets were not available until Tuesday, three days before the game. Most of the blame could be laid at the feet of Boulder County. Only 1,000 fans were allowed, with only 500 tickets available to the general public.

The low number was bad enough (and we’ll be watching the Boulder County health department closely over the summer as to how many fans will be allowed in Folsom this fall), but CU only made a bad situation worse. CU allowed individuals to “make reservations” online, completing a form, leading them to beleive that they were in … only to tell them on Thursday that they didn’t make the cut.

We all signed up Tuesday morning, giving our details, and receiving “confirmation” from CU. We all thought that we were in. Instead, only the first 500 on the “first come, first served” list were honored, with other fans told that their requests would not be filled.

Based upon the outraged posts on the message boards, there were well more than 500 Buff fans who wanted to attend, many of whom made plans on Tuesday to attend (including taking time off from work – this “game” was, after all, on a Friday), only to find out the day before the event that they were not welcome.

Playing on a Friday was a bad idea. Playing in the morning only guaranteed that no one in the country would be paying any attention.

And then to deny access to hardcore fans who actually wanted to attend, by making them believe that they could attend, and then telling them they weren’t welcome?

Not a good P.R. day for the program

Finish on a high note

Issues aside, the CU football program’s first set of spring practices under Karl Dorrell should be considered a success.

Players were given 15 opportunities to learn the system, and create bonds which will get them through the tough 2021 schedule.

What’s next?

Dorrell talked to his players before Friday’s finale about the importance of coming back in June ready to take the next step in their development. Dorrell said he also wants them to stay focused on the task ahead.

“I want them to reflect on the work we need to accomplish this summer,”  Dorrell said. “We talked about that at length this morning before the scrimmage. There’s some work we need to get done both as a team physically, and also the mental aspect of sharpening ourselves and sharpening each other about the challenges that are set in front of us in terms of our schedule … There’s a lot I want them to digest and think about because when June hits, we’re going to be hitting it hard and heavy.”

Sounds good …

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2 Replies to “Student Section Revisited (Hanging Out at the Spring Game)”

  1. Tight end……………always concerned about the tight ends sheesh

    In checking other rosters the norm seems 7to 9

    So that is what it will be don’t ya think

    Buffs

  2. I made pac 12 network history! I was the one who recorded CU’s spring showcase and caught it last night.

    To my untrained eye, I think shrout is ahead of Lewis. Pretty athletic, and seems a better passer. The fall competition will be fun to watch unfold. Whoever earns the gig, even if it’s Sam again, should be better than last year.

    Go Buffs

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